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31 Jan, 2008 16:21

Former Yukos chief refuses prison food

Former oligarch Mikhail Khordorkovsky is on hunger strike in jail. He says it's in support of Vasily Aleksanian, a former colleague who is also detained and dying of AIDS. The two former Yukos Oil executives were jailed in 2005 for fraud and tax-evasion.

Khordorkovsky says Aleksanian is deliberately being punished for not testifying against him, claiming he's forced to live in poor conditions and is refused medicine on purpose.

But the Russian Prosecutor General's office says it found no law violations in the way Aleksanyan is being held.

Authorities describe the conditions Aleksanyan is being held in: 17 square metres, a TV set, a fridge, hot and cold water among other necessary equipment. They also say that there are adequate medical facilities and specialists available to the prisoner.
This week Aleksanian appeared in court in a fragile state and mid way through the hearing requested an ambulance. He believes forcing him to attend is unlawful:

“I consider it utterly inappropriate to be brought here at all. I was categorically against this. It is known to all, the judge included, that I am in hospital in a grave condition. It's just impossible. Am I to be brought here in a coffin?”

The European Court of Human Rights has called on authorities to move Aleksanyan from prison to a clinic specialising in AIDS treatment.

And Russia's Human Right's Commissioner says Aleksanyan must urgently be examined by doctors.

Meanwhile, Natalya Narochnitskaya – president of the Foundation for Historical Outlook says unless there is solid proof there has been a violation of human rights nothing can be done.